Primary Robins Orchestra Workshop

Four members of The Berkeley Ensemble gave workshops at two of our schools in Essex

Dan (viola), Gemma (cello), Martin (double bass), and Ashley (bassoon).

They started by playing the theme tune from CBeebies Hey Duggee – which delighted the children. They then introduced the String Family and explained that the size of the instrument influences the pitch and, therefore, the double bass being the largest makes the lowest sound. The children were amazed to feel the vibrations through the floor when Martin played the lowest note on his double bass.

The children learnt that strings used to be made of cat guts, but now they are made of metal.

Gemma and Martin then played a Rossini Duet for cello and bass. As this piece is a conversation between the two instruments, the children were put it to teams and had to put their hands up when their instrument was playing the melody.

This was followed by Beethoven’s Eyeglasses Duet, and we learnt that it was given this title because the original performers (Beethoven himself on viola, and his friend Baron Nikolaus Zmeskall von Domanowecz on cello) needed to wear spectacles to see the music.

Ashley talked about the Woodwind Family and explained how reeds work and create a sound. He and Gemma then played a Mozart sonata for bassoon and cello.

The children heard pieces by four composers and one Robin suggested that a composer was like an author!

At the end of the workshop, four Robins helped create a collaborative composition – in which one chose the rhythm, one chose a key, one decided on the mood and the final volunteer became the conductor. The result was a three-minute masterpiece.

The players finished by playing an arrangement of Danse Macabre by Saint Saens – the children were transfixed.

Annabel Larard – Project Leader